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USA ENTERTAINMENT

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Dave Petrelius
Cast:
NA
Screenplay:
NA

MPAA:
Not Rated.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Standard 1.33
Audio:
English Dolby Stereo
Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $19.95
Release Date: 3/5/2002

Bonus:
• U2 Halftime Performance
• NFL Salutes America
• 1976 Patriots Featurette
• Gino Cappelletti Featurette
• Steve Grogan Featurette


PURCHASE
DVD

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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Super Bowl XXXVI Champions (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

It’s official: I’ve now purchased a DVD solely for a bonus feature. Oh, I’ve been strongly influenced by the inclusion of extras in the past. For example, I’d have skipped National Lampoon’s European Vacation without the audio commentary from Chevy Chase, and the new supplements on Bull Durham convinced me to get that “upgrade”.

However, in those instances, I had at least possible interest in the main programs. I like Durham a lot, and although it turned out that Vacation was pretty bad, I thought I might enjoy the film. In other words, I wanted to see it for reasons other than just the audio commentary, though I admit that factor motivated my viewing.

Things differ for Super Bowl XXXVI Champions, a program that examines the New England Patriots’ 2001 season. While I do like football and I thought this year’s Super Bowl was a good one, I couldn’t care less about the Patriots. I doubt I’d want a program such as this for the Redskins - my favorite team - much less the Pats.

So why’d I get the disc? Two characters: “U” and “2”. I’d heard that the DVD included the band’s halftime performance from the game, and that was good enough for me. Hey, I went to 14 shows in 2001 - you think I’m gonna shy away from a $15 purchase for a little extra U2 goodness?

Although U2 caused this purchase, I still won’t actively discuss that element until we get to the proper part of the DVD. Despite my lack of interest in the subject, I gave Super Bowl XXXVI Champions a look. Before the DVD hit shelves, I noticed some confusion about its content. Some thought it’d include the full game, whereas others felt it’d provide extended highlights of the contest.

Actually, though the latter belief comes closest, in truth the program provides a general overview of the Patriots’ 2001 season, from game one through the playoffs. It takes a little more than half of the show to complete the regular season; we enter the playoffs after about 35 minutes, and each of those three games receives fairly full coverage. Of course, the Super Bowl gets the most attention, but the other two contests go under the microscope as well.

The playoff material seems most interesting. The program runs through the regular season so rapidly that we don’t hear much more than very basic notes. After all, the program can only devote about two minutes per game, so the show needed to progress through them quickly. We get the basic highlights but little else.

Happily, the presentation becomes more compelling with the three playoff games. I probably most enjoyed the examination of the Divisional Playoff contest against the Oakland Raiders. That one took place during a full-fledged blizzard and offered a very unusual experience.

The two subsequent games also received more substantial coverage, though they still lacked much depth. For example, we didn’t get a significant examination of a call that saved the Raider game. The refs ruled against a fumble when they judged that quarterback Tom Brady’s arm went through a forward throwing motion as he got tackled and lost the ball. However, close examination of the play sure made it look like Brady was grabbed as he pumped the ball, not while he threw it. The program took the company line and didn’t challenge this interpretation.

Produced by NFL Films, Champions definitely isn’t the place to go for anything other than a puffy, feel-good look at the Patriots’ season. Granted, the team merited the accolades as they went from “worst to first”; they reversed their 2000 5-11 regular season record to go 11-5 in 2001 and then (obviously) swept the playoffs. I don’t expect this sort of program to be a down-and-dirty examination of events.

Nonetheless, some additional depth would have been appreciated. The show glossed over important factors. For example, Terry Glenn’s departure from the team vaguely referred to “personal conflicts” with no discussion of the specifics or about how this affected the team.

We also got no mention of coach Bill Belichick’s controversial decision to attempt a scoring drive during the last two minutes of the Super Bowl. During the live broadcast, commentator John Madden loudly criticized this choice. The game was tied, and he felt they should sit on the ball and go for the win in overtime. This wasn’t a bad interpretation; the Pats took possession of the ball deep in their own territory, so Belichick’s choice was extremely risky.

However, since it paid off with a Super Bowl win - Adam Vinateri made a field goal as time expired - no one slammed him for it after the fact. Madden was big enough to acknowledge his own error, even though I don’t think he was wrong. It was a matter of willingness to gamble. Belichick put all his money down on a 100-to-1 shot and won, whereas Madden encouraged a more conservative choice. In any case, Champions should have discussed this decision; if nothing else, it would have made the conclusion even more exciting.

Champions almost totally focused on game footage with narration, a presentation that will seem familiar to all NFL fans. That format included many slow-mo shots as well as a lot of footage from the sidelines. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess. While the show seemed a little stale and stodgy at times, I must admit that it’d be weird to see an NFL Films piece that altered the formula, so I won’t complain about that aspect of the program.

In addition, we get occasional soundbites from folks like Tom Brady or Bill Belichick. Not surprisingly, these tidbits seem bland and uninformative. Most sports professionals are boring interview subjects at best, but when placed into a happy puff-piece like this, we can’t expect anything interesting.

Overall, Super Bowl XXXVI Champions seems aimed mainly at an audience of Patriots lovers. General NFL fans may enjoy the scrapbook look at that team’s season, but I can’t imagine many folks who aren’t Pats diehards will want to revisit the piece. It’s an extremely puffy and fluffy look at their season, and its lack of depth makes it less than scintillating.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus C

Super Bowl XXXVI Champions appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture seemed decent but contained enough flaws to drop my grade to a “B-“.

Sharpness generally appeared adequate. Most of the footage came across as reasonably crisp and distinct, but more than a few shots displayed less than ideal definition. Some vague softness interfered with the presentation at times. I never saw anything that looked terribly fuzzy, but some examples were mildly unfocused. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I also saw no signs of edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I detected some grain as well as occasional speckles, but for the most part, the image remained clean.

Colors looked fairly vivid and vibrant, though they also seemed somewhat lackluster. While well saturated and clear, I felt the hues could have appeared brighter much of the time. They displayed no decided problems, but they simply lacked the liveliness I expected. Black levels seemed dense and deep, while shadow detail - a minor issue during the brightly lit games - appeared appropriately defined without too much thickness. Ultimately, Champions suffered from few real problems, but the presentation simply seemed a little flat and lackluster.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Super Bowl XXXVI Champions mainly suffered from a lack of ambition. The soundfield appeared very restricted for the most part. Frankly, the majority of the audio seemed monaural. Music opened up the spectrum fairly well, as the side speakers displayed the score with good stereo imaging. In addition, some crowd elements during games broadened the environment to a minor but useful degree. Surround usage appeared totally limited to general reinforcement of music and cheering; the rear speakers played a very small role in the presentation.

Audio quality was good but unexceptional. Speech seemed natural and distinct, with no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects sounded clear and accurate, as the various hits and crunches appeared realistic. Music functioned best of all, as the score and songs presented bright highs and pretty solid bass response; the mix enjoyed good low-end punch from the music. Overall, this remained a fairly bland soundtrack, but it displayed no substantial concerns.

As I alluded earlier, Super Bowl XXXVI Champions provides a few supplements, and we start with the halftime performance by U2. During this 12-minute and 15-second clip - which includes a pre-set montage - they play “Beautiful Day”, a snippet of “MLK”, and “Where the Streets Have No Name”. The vaguely resembles the heart used on their 2001 Elevation tour, though it doesn’t seem to extend into the crowd. The performance also features a scroll of 9/11 casualties the band used for shows during the tour’s October through December third leg. Note that this list has been significantly expanded since its premiere. Originally it showed just the passengers on the four planes, but as the tour progressed, it added various rescue workers. As seen during the Super Bowl, it provided all those names as well as folks who perished in the Pentagon and in the World Trade Center.

Many people praised U2’s show at the game, and if one compares it to typical Super Bowl halftime fare, it indeed rocked. However, when viewed next to the band’s real concerts, it seemed flat and awkward. With no time to warm up, U2 didn’t get into a groove, and Bono’s vocals sounded truly terrible. Through 27 concerts, I’ve heard him have bad nights, but never as weak as this.

Don’t expect much from the picture or sound quality of the set. It looked as though they took it straight from the video master, and it showed. I’m glad to have this performance, but I found the sound and visuals to be somewhat disappointing.

Next we find The NFL Salutes America. Basically this offers a five minute and 45 second tribute to the US. Various players reflect on things post September 11. It’s a reasonably dignified piece; while it did little for me, it seemed acceptably effective.

Another three featurettes provide some historical focus. 1976 Patriots gives us a five minute and five second look at that year’s team. We see many clips of those games and hear from Patriots defensive lineman Ray Hamilton, quarterback Steve Grogan, linebacker Steve Nelson, tight end Russ Francis, plus Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum and quarterback Ken Stabler. The show touts the ’76 Pats as one of the greats, and we find the focus mainly on their playoff loss to the Raiders. It’s interesting to see, especially since the season hinged on a controversial note.

One quibble: we’re told that if the Pats had beaten the Raiders, they might have won a slew of Super Bowls. If they were so great, why’d they never go beyond that level? It’s not like the loss of one game meant the end of the team. The Pats never even made a Super Bowl until after the 1985 season, when the Bears slaughtered them.

We hear a little about that game during a program that centers on long-term quarterback Steve Grogan. This four-minute and 25-second piece offers more game clips and interviews with Grogan, linebacker Steve Nelson, broadcaster Gil Santos, running back Craig James, guard John Hannah, and center Pete Brock. It’s a decent little overview of Grogan’s career.

In the next piece, we learn about the career of Gino Cappelletti, a player from the team’s earlier days. We hear from Cappelletti, Gil Santos, linebacker Nick Buoniconti, and Bills linebacker Mike Stratton during this four-minute and 20-second program. It resembles the Grogan offering and also gives us a reasonably interesting glimpse at his career.

One annoyance found on this DVD: some totally unskippable promos at its start. We find two short - but long enough to irritate - ads that cannot be avoided. This kind of stuff is a minor nuisance, but it doesn’t need to be here.

For fans of the New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVI Champions offers a nice souvenir of their big season. For others, however, the show seems too light and fluffy to provide much value. The DVD provides bland but acceptable picture and sound along with an average set of extras. Diehard backers of the Patriots - or huge U2 aficionados like myself - will want to give it a look, but everyone else should skip it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2727 Stars Number of Votes: 22
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